Day five of the U.S. Olympic Trials lived up to the hype. Great four hundred battles, huge 1,500 meter rounds, steeple rounds, and then an AR in the women's steeplechase! The Villard Street Pub, the unofficial party central in Eugene, Oregon, (the campaign center for Mr. Green, soon to be announced as Barak Obama's running partner). The Pub was filled with coaches, athletes, fans, talking track until the closing hours, as the minions left to head to the dorms and hotels around Eugene, talking about one great night of track and field.....
Moments of brilliance, moments of honesty.....
The fact of the matter is that one coach influenced both four hundred meters, one by his present coaching relationship and one by the ending of that relationship. Clyde Hart is a man who knows his craft. Always self deprecating, Clyde once told me that all coaches find what works for them and fine tune it. His program, which we detailed in AT&F several years ago, came after helping Michael Johnson, he of the 19.32 and 43.18 fame.
Men's 400 meters
Early in the Olympic year, it became a fact that Jeremy Wariner had ended his relationship with Clyde Hart as a coach. What happened is between Wariner and Hart. Suffice it to say, I had much concern about ending such a relationship in a critical year. Jeremy has not been real happy speaking about it and neither Wariner nor his agent Michael Johnson comprehended the firestorm from the press about the change. Living in such an unreal world is pretty dangerous, even for a two time World Champion and one time Olympian. That Michael Johnson did not see this coming and could not, with his influence, I find hard to fathom. Suffice it to say, Jeremy Wariner, for whatever reasons, had some breaks in his invincible status of the past few years.
So, along comes La Shawn Merrit. La Shawn is all of twenty-two ( we have had conflicting info in our media packets), and he just kept on training. A beautiful runner to watch, Merrit realized that this was an Olympic year. All through 2008, Merritt and Wariner traded best times in the world.
On June 1, in Berlin, Merritt and Wariner went head on, as it should be. In a beautiful race showing eaches strengths and weaknesses, Merritt and Wariner came down the final one hundred meters, step for step. It was about 390 meters that Wariner started to falter, and Merritt won 44.03 to 44.07!
On July 3, all eyes were on lanes five and six and Wariner and Merrit took off. Even at 200 meters, Wariner again came off the turn with Merritt right there. This is an unusual postion for Wariner to be in, but he started to roll and moved up on Merritt's shoulder. That was it, as LaShawn would not let up and did the text book run that the coaches in the stands understood-Merritt ran through the finish, winning the Trials in 44.00.
Wariner, who ran to his max, started to over stride and struggle with 40 meters, to go, but, as the champion he is, he fought the demons and hit the line in 44.20. Wariner looked devastated. I do not believe he ever thought this would happen. " I did not run my race," he told reporters.
David Neville ran a smart race, taking third in 44.61, with Reggie Witherspoon running 45.01 in fourth place.
Micheal Johnson gave the medals out to the 400 meter medalist. It was obvious that Jeremy was devastated. He will mull this race over in him mind in the five weeks before Beijing. The difference is that Wariner and Merritt are now pretty close. The change in coaches is part of those intangibles that make a difference at this level. The Wariner camp needs to figure out what went wrong. The Merritt camp better not change a thing, because La Shawn Merritt is burning up the track.
What is the difference between two of the most talented athletes in our sport? I am not sure I can say, but the intangibles at this level are huge. Olympic years, World Championship years, footwear sponsor bragging rights, all add huge pressures to these young men. I do celebrate their accomplishments. It is my belief that Mr. Wariner has too look inside and find out what he is made of, he is a champion athlete, with amazing talent and promise.
When I look at La Shawn Merritt, I smile. Like Kerron Clement, I see La Shawn as a young man who works hard, and just beginning to figure out his event. Wait until La Shawn is 25 or 26 and it will be just frightening.
Women's 400 meters
Sanya Richards showed that she a) can make it through rounds, and b) she listens to her coach. Running a patented Clyde Hart race, Sanya used her strengths and minimized her weaknesses by getting out strong, and moving over the 200 to 300 meters, having some breathing room as she hit the final straightaway, running a fine 49.89.
Mary Wineberg, running her most aggressive race, hit the 200 metes on all cylinders, challenging Sanya over the next hundred meters, and paying for it over the last hundred. Mary had been ill much of the week and her 50.85 barely held off Dee Dee Trotter, who came from seventh to third in the last fifty meters, with Trotter taking fourth in 50.88!
Monique Henderson running a strong race, just could not hold on and missed third by .10, running 50.98 for fourth place.
The victory for Sanya was sweet. Last year, Dee Trotter had run her down and Sanya had slipped to fifth at the US championships.
Sanya Richards reassessed, listened to her coach, worked very hard in trying circumstances and persevered. That is sweet victory. That action is the difference between victory and loss. Sanya Richards has something to celebrate!
The race came down to this: Jennifer Barringer, the University of Colorado steeple star, had won the NCAA, set a Hayward Field record in the first round. Barringer took the lead and just kept pushing it.
Like her round, Anna Willard stayed with Barringer in the heats and now in the final, it was Anna Willard, LIndsay Anderson and Barringer breaking from NIcole Bush, American record holder, and former US champion Lisa Galaviz and Kara June.
The front pack was on American record pace (9:28. 75, set July 28, 2007), lap after lap.
Barringer lead, hurdling the barriers and jumping well, lap after lap. Anna Willard, with her red hair, looks like former lead singer in the seminal LA punk band, X. Willard runs very clean and hurdles quite well.
The race changed complexion when Anna Willard took the lead over the second to last water barrier. Willard took off and that was it. She hit the last lap in 8:20, and ran the last lap, with four barriers, in a scintillating 67 seconds!
Anna Willard ran to the American record, setting a fine 9:27.59. Lindsay Anderson, in second, ran 9:30.75, also under the old standard. Jennifer Barringer was rewarded with new pr, a new Collegiate record as well, as well as taking the third spot on the Olympic team!
Huge depth in this race, with ten women un 9:54.93. Congratulations to Bowerman AC
runner Carrie Strickland, who works full time at Nike, ran a ten second personal best in
the final, with her fine 9:53.67!
Women's 1,500 meter heats
Christian Wurth Thomas took the first heat with a nice 4:13.40, with Tiffany McWilliams who took second in 4:13.54. Cal state champion Christine Babcock, who demolished the HSR in the 1,600 meters, ran 4:18.32 after leading early and moved on.
Shannon Rowbury and Erin Donahue, followed Jordan Hasay, Cal State 3200 champion, through 1100 meters and then the party was over. Dropping a 61.8 last lap and 45 seconds over the last 300, Rowbury and Donahue ran 4:16:13 to 4:16.84. Sara Hall, Jennifer Deatherage moved on, along with Jordan Hasay. Jordan will go from here to the World Junior in Poland over the weekend.
In heat three, Lindsay Gallo ran 4;17.10 for the win, with Treniere Clement on her shoulder. Carrie Tollefson, with six weeks of training, also moved on.
And do not Miss our Runningnetwork TV Recap of Day Five:
Day 5 Recap:
Day 5, Pt. 2 - 10,000 meter review of Adam Goucher's entry and race preview: